"Turbo," the tale of a snail that becomes so supercharged he gets to compete in a famous car race, is a victim of bad timing, uninspired animation and voice talents that range from perfect to perfectly awful.
A snail with a need for speed gets transformed by a freak car accident into a fast-moving terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs. Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) gets to show off his new skills when the co-owner of a taco stand in a Van Nuys strip mall puts him in a snail race. The group decides the only place for a snail that can move faster than 200 mph is the Indy 500.
The film arrives in the wake of the Minion-filled fun of "Despicable Me 2" and the sweet nostalgia of "Monsters University." Compared to those other summer animated movies, "Turbo" feels like its headed quickly to DVD.
There's nothing wrong with the animation. But except for the computer-generated Indy cars, there's nothing visually exciting. The simple look of snails doesn't give the animators a lot to work with. There are some shell differences, but overall the snails look similarly bland.
And, for a movie about a snail, there's no sense of size. Director David Soren needed to show what the world looks like from a snail's point of view.
Animated films featuring non-human characters tend to keep the action confined to a species battle. "Turbo" feels lopsided as the tiny snail's biggest rival is an Indy racing champion, annoyingly voiced by Bill Hader. It's hard to have any real feel of competition when the battle could be ended by one pinch of salt. It doesn't help that Hader uses a fake foreign accent.
Hader's not the only weak voice. There's nothing striking enough about Reynolds' voice to make Turbo stand out vocally. The best vocal work comes from Paul Giamatti, who speaks for Turbo's brother Chet. Giamatti can sell an emotion with his very distinct voice, something Reynolds fails to accomplish. Samuel L. Jackson has a unique voice, but his vocal work for fellow snail Whiplash sounds like everything else he's done.
The script by Darren Lemke and Robert D. Siegel has enough material to have been a good 30-minute cartoon. "Turbo" tries to make points about being yourself and finding the strength within, but they don't feel organic. And for a movie all about speed, "Turbo" constantly moves at a snail's pace especially when the action gets to Indianapolis.
"Turbo" has enough problems that it will be left in the dust of the fast-paced world of summer movies.
"Turbo," rated PG for action scenes. Stars Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Bill Hader, Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by David Soren. Running time: 96 minutes. Grade: C
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TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.